5 Ideas to Encourage Open-Ended Creative Play in Preschoolers

5 Ideas to Encourage Open-Ended Creative Play in Preschoolers

Most preschoolers naturally learn to play in creative ways.

But, in some cases in our culture today, preschoolers either have limited creative play time or quickly lose the skill to “create.” I love technology and experience several benefits from it. But, with abundance of technology in our culture today with screens, TV, and regular direction in schools and organized activities, kids have lost some of the ability to play creatively without constant direction.

As a former public school teacher, I hover on giving too much constant direction to my own kids. We were taught to be as specific and frequent in our feedback and guidance as possible.

While I still agree that specific feedback helps, I actually have to make myself stop offering constant guidance in some activities so my kids can just create.

Benefits of Creative Play

Being able to play creatively boosts numerous skills, including:

  • social skills,
  • contextual intelligence,
  • fine motor skills,
  • problem solving,
  • intrinsic motivation, and more.

5 Ideas to Encourage Open-Ended Creative Play in Preschoolers

5 Ideas to Encourage Creative Play

  • Keep crafting and play supplies easily accessible. We’ve talked about encouraging pretend play on this blog before. I consider creative play to be a broader term and “pretend play” to be one type of creative play. Creative play is any open-ended play where the participants are creating rules and changing play without constant guidance from a “teacher” figure. Since I need practice myself, keeping supplies as easily accessible as possible makes it much more likely I can (and will) set up opportunities for the kids to employ creativity. Check out this post on how I keep craft supplies organized and this post on organizing to allow for creative exercise play. Sensory bins also allow for creative play.
  • Felt Activities – Some friends made a felt board for us, and we love it. You can find many felt learning activities online and I have some felt activities on my Home Preschool – Activities and Crafts Pinterest board. Choose felt activities that have more than one way to play. This night sky felt play activity from Fantastic Fun and Learning can be used in specific learning activities and for open-ended play.
  • International Dot Day. I’m super excited about joining this celebration this year. Peter Reynolds writes some of our favorite picture books (Ish is fantastic!) “International Dot Day” celebrates creativity and the truth that all kids (and adults) are creative in their own ways. Joining in is simple: Read The Dot by Peter Reynolds, then allow your kids opportunity to create their own mark! You can use various mediums and the dots can take numerous forms. We practiced this week, and my kids loved making their own dot designs with Do-A-Dot markers.

    Celebrating International Dot Day - 5 Ideas to Encourage Open-Ended Creative Play with Preschoolers {undergodsmightyhand.com}

    I gave them materials and asked them to create dots, and let them create as they desired without even so much as “put some dots on this side of the paper, too” from me.

    Celebrating International Dot Day - 5 Ideas to Encourage Open-Ended Creative Play with Preschoolers {undergodsmightyhand.com}

    “International Dot Day” is September 15th. Learn more here.

  • Give time. We need structured activities to help promote specific skills, especially for my son with special needs. But, I also aim to give at least 2 hours of free play to my kids everyday. (Usually it’s much more than that.) When they play on their own, they come up with some great mini-games together! A bonus: the abundant amount of giggles and sharing produced by their creative play.
  • Ask questions that require decision-making. With young children, sometimes a few questions requiring response help boost creative play. If your kids begin making up a game, join in. Ask questions that require them to make up the next step, like “So when I get the ball, what do I do next?” The kids are still creating, and you’re just providing more opportunities to create. 

How do you encourage creative play with your preschoolers?


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This post is also linked up with The Homeschool Village’s Ultimate Homeschool Link-UpHomeschool Creation’s Preschool and Kindergarten CornerTuesday TotsTender Moments with Toddlers and Preschoolers, the Weekly Kids Co-opShow and Share Saturday, and Free Homeschool Deals’ Ultimate Pinterest Party.

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6 thoughts on “5 Ideas to Encourage Open-Ended Creative Play in Preschoolers

  1. Clarissa Hooper

    Love that book! I will have to mark international dot day and my calendar for next year (seems I missed it this year) and do something creative with my boys to celebrate! Thanks for the ideas:)

  2. Pingback: 5 Tips for Using Wordless Books with Kids with Special Needs

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